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Since boyhood, a hardware man

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He's been working the nuts and bolts of the hardware business as long as he can remember, and now, he has his own store--with his own name on it.

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Mark's Fleet Supply True Value has opened in the south Perham business district, and owner Mark Tomsche will be hosting a grand opening August 1-3.

He's following in the footsteps of his father Bob, who opened a family owned fleet store in Sauk Centre in 1965. Today, Bob Tomsche has other stores in Paynesville, Glenwood and Little Falls.

after working for the family business since he was a youngster, and 20 years full-time as an adult, 39-year-old Mark Tomsche was anxious to step out on his own--with his own store.

Perham was the site he chose. The 28,000 square foot store features a full line of hardware and paint products to tackle any type of home or commercial project--including plumbing, electrical, lawn and garden and tools.

As a size comparison, Dean's Country Market is about 32,000 square feet--so the two buildings are somewhat comparable in size.

There are 18 employees, and the focus is on service.

"There will always be somebody on staff who can help with a problem," said Tomsche. "We have a good mix of employees, with both retail experience and trade experience."

Ever since he was a kid, it was always plumbing that brought in the most bewildered customers.

"Plumbing projects are always fun--always unique--always challenging," laughed Mark, noting that hardly any two plumbing issues are likely to be identical.

Farm-related products, animal feed, pet supplies, storage and rental items will also be available at Mark's.

The substantial investment in Perham comes at a time where the economy is slow, and fuel prices high.

"If you look at the economy, you would wonder 'what's that crazy guy doing,'" said Tomsche. "But when the economy is sluggish, it can be a good time to make a move. So, when the economy improves, you're set up; you don't have to chase it; you're already there."

In addition to conventional retail, Mark's is also participating in a True Value program that services larger institutions with bulk products--ranging from cleaning products to paint.

The Perham store is also one of the newer stores built with the "Destination True Value" market strategy. "Destination " stores feature more contemporary decor, modern layout, and generally, broader range of inventory and services.

Tomsche is still experimenting with the inventory mix that will be appropriate for the greater Perham area.

"We're taking notes and trying to fill requests as best we can," said Tomsche. "We will be constantly fine-tuning our inventory and selection.

Mark's Fleet is affiliated with Chicago-based True Value, one of the world's largest member-owned wholesale hardware cooperatives, with sales of $2 billion in 2006. The company includes about 5,800 independent retailer locations worldwide.

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